According to reports, officials were looking to replace the group's long standing opposition to "all forms" of protectionism with a new wording that would reflect U.S. concerns and reference "fair" trade.
The leaders noted the importance of trade to the global economy, saying countries were "working to strengthen the contribution of trade" to their economies, but didn't use the tougher language from before, vowing to "resist all forms of protectionism". Other prominent participants will be European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, China's finance minister, Xiao Jie, and the host finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble of Germany.
The focus will be on the final statement issued jointly by the finance ministers on Saturday.
Mnuchin said on Thursday (March 17) that President Donald Trump did not want to get into trade wars but wanted to re-examine certain trade relationships to make them fairer for US workers.
If the the finance ministers fail to forge a consensus on trade, then they may be forced to hand the issue over to the G20 leaders who meet in a summit in July in the northern German port town of Hamburg. But whether the statement will steer clear of anti-protectionist language out of consideration for the increasingly protectionist United States under Trump is a focal point.
"It's not true we are not agreed". Europe was keen on adding that trade should be "rules-based", meaning subject to rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). "But it wasn't clear what one or another meant by that", he said.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gestures as he arrives at the G20 finance minister meeting in Baden-Baden, southern Germany, Friday, March 17, 2017.
China and European countries had pushed for a stronger affirmation of cross-border trade without tariffs or barriers. He has already pulled the USA out of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with Japan and other Pacific Rim countries and he has started the process to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, both of whom are G-20 members. He denied he was "an isolationist", rather "a free trader, but also a fair trader".
In relation to Berlin, Mnuchin told reporters on Thursday he had listened to Schaeuble's argument that Germany's export surplus was as a outcome of the European Central Bank setting the interest rates for all 19 euro area countries.
Worldwide trade makes up nearly half of global economic output and officials said the issue could be revisited at a meeting of G20 leaders in July.
The outcome of the first face-to-face talks between Aso and Mnuchin could be a relief to Japanese officials concerned about the US piling pressure on Japan over currency policy.